Monday 3 August 2009

Jimmy's Return - More details

The museum’s full size figure of FA Cup legend Jimmy Speirs returned to Valley Parade following a two year loan to the Passchendaele Museum in Belgium. We loaned the figure to help the Museum commemorate the ninetieth anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele in which Speirs was killed along with 300,000 British and Commonwealth troops.

Last week bantamspast’s David Pendleton travelled to Belgium to visit the Passchendaele Museum and bring the figure of Speirs back to Valley Parade in time for the new football season. On Saturday David, along with his daughter Rosie and fellow City fan Glyn Watkins met Frank at the Passchendaele Museum. Frank kindly drove our small party to Dochy Farm New British Cemetery where Jimmy Speirs is buried. We were pleased to note that Jimmy has received a new headstone and for the first time in ninety years his name is now spelt correctly on his grave – it had been spelt Spiers, an error that had been made on Jimmy’s enrolment form when he first joined the army.

Frank then drove us to the Passchendaele Museum, where we were given a guided tour. The museum is well worth a visit and has an impressive reconstruction of a British dug out. We later visited Tyne Cot Cemetery, the largest British war cemetery in the world, where we viewed the memorial to that other great FA Cup winner – Robert Torrance. Sadly, he has no known grave and is commemorated on Tyne Cot’s Memorial to the Missing.

Frank gave our party a lift to Kortrijk railway station – sadly as we had the cut-out figure of Speirs booked on a London bound Eurostar that evening, we had to turn down Frank’s offer to watch his beloved Kortrijk play Anderlecht on the opening day of the Belgian football season. We received a few bemused looks as we boarded a Ghent bound train with the large cut-out. After a short stop at Ghent we arrived in good time at Brussels to place the figure on a Eurostar bound for London. We followed two days later and picked Jimmy up from St Pancras. It was quite a challenge to get the cut-out, its base and a large framed photograph from there to King’s Cross. By now the group was down to David and Rosie, so the short distance was a bit of a struggle. However, the helpful National Express staff soon had our items stowed in the guard's van and we were soon heading north. At Leeds it was an easy hop to a Forster Square bound train and bantamspast’s John Ashton met us at the station for the short journey to Valley Parade.

The cut-out figure of Jimmy Speirs will be on display once more when City open their home campaign against Port Vale on Saturday 15 August. Our thanks to Frank at the Passchendaele Museum for his hospitality. The staff of SNCB, Eurostar, National Express East Coast and Northern Trains for their assistance in getting Jimmy Speirs back to Valley Parade in time for the new season. A fuller account of the journey will appear in a forthcoming City Gent.

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